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Laramie Movie Scope: Hitch

Will Smith dazzles in romantic comedy

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 19, 2005 -- Will Smith is one of those rare movie stars who can handle both comedy and drama with equal facility. He has also managed to work himself up to the enviable position of being one of those sure-fire box office draws, like Mel Gibson or Julia Roberts. He can reasonably demand $20 million or more per movie. “Hitch” is a case in point. It is a movie that only has one thing going for it and that's Will Smith. O.K., I oversimplified, the script isn't bad and Kevin James of “The King of Queens” TV show is certainly a capable comic actor, but it is Smith who powers this movie and puts the butts in the theater seats.

And what did Will Smith do with this modest little romantic comedy? He hits it out of the park, setting an all-time box office record for a romantic comedy opening weekend with over $44 million. The guy is amazing. I never saw his old TV show, “The Fresh Prince of Belair,” but I first noticed his acting ability in a small independent film, “Six Degrees of Separation.” Smith hit the big time by appearing in one of the biggest box office hits of all time, “Independence Day.” Since then, he's churned out one hit after another, while picking up an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Mohammed Ali in “Ali.”

Even in big action films like “Independence Day,” Smith often plays roles with a comic edge, so it is no big surprise he can handle a romantic comedy. In “Hitch,” he plays a kind of suave romantic consultant. His charm and wit show through in his initial romantic scene with Sara (Eva Mendes of “Stuck on You”). It is a well-written scene played to perfection by both actors. There is another good scene between the two when both Sara and Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (Smith) reveal the heartbreaks from their pasts which led them to shut down emotionally. The camera angles in the film are distracting. For some reason (two guesses) there are an unusually large number of high angle shots looking down the front of Sara's blouse. Just a coincidence, I suppose, or is it some kind of artistic choice?

Most of the comic scenes in the movie come when Hitch is on the screen with Albert (played by Kevin James). Albert is a nice guy who wants to date a woman who is way out of his league, the wealthy and attractive Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta of “Family Man”). Even though the odds are stacked against Albert, who is not sophisticated, Hitch's motto is that under the right circumstances any man can sweep any woman off her feet. He is just smooth enough to make you believe that fantasy. Also appearing in the film are Adam Arkin as Max and Michael Rapaport as Ben.

Although this is a fairly standard romantic comedy, what sets it apart is Smith's charm and talent. This film rates a B. It is worth noting that not too many years ago, quality roles for black actors were pretty scarce, but Denzel Washington, Jaime Foxx and Will Smith are having great critical and box office success in Hollywood these days. Washington picked up a historic best actor Oscar for his searing portrayal of a bad cop in “Training Day” and Foxx is a lock for a Best Actor Oscar this year for his dead-on portrayal of the legendary Ray Charles in the biopic “Ray.” Foxx also got a supporting actor nomination for his excellent work in “Collateral.” Others, like Cuba Gooding Jr. (“Radio”), Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), and and Ice Cube (“Barbershop”) are working regularly and getting some good roles. Samuel L. Jackson (“Unbreakable”) has achieved great box office success. Movies in which he appears have reportedly made more money than movies in which Harrison Ford appears.

Roles for black women are still scarce. Halle Berry's critical and box office bomb, “Catwoman,” isn't helping matters. It's too bad. There are some great black actresses out there, like Gabrielle Union (“Deliver Us From Eva”), Sophie Okonedo (“Hotel Rwanda”), Angela Bassett (“Sunshine State”), Kerry Washington, (“Ray”), Alfre Woodard (“Radio”) and Sharon Warrenbut (“Ray”), but there aren't many good roles for them, or for any actresses of any color, for that matter. Of major black actresses, only Oprah Winfrey is rich and powerful enough to finance her own movies. This movie shows what one great star can do for a film, when given the opportunity, and race isn't even an issue in the success of this film.

For more information on this film, including video clips, trailer, synopsis, production notes, photo galleries, cast and crew notes, click on this link to the official home page of Hitch.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)